Friday, March 28, 2008

Flashback Friday-Ricky Schroder Fan Club

Another Friday, where thanks to the amazing CableGirl, I actually have something to write about! Kind of. So I know it is Friday, I know I am supposed to write about something in the past, but that still leaves a lot of ground to cover.

But yesterday April was writing about the plus side of living in an all-girl house, and there were photos of these hot celebs (but I really can't believe she didn't mention Patrick Dempsey. Remember "Can't Buy Me Love," which was maybe the first movie I have ever seen him in? He was cute then, but damn, he is HOT now!), which in turn made me think of my own movie start crushes which led me straight back to sixth grade and Ricky Schroder.

Remember the TV show, "Silver Spoons?" I watched it every time it was on, and fell so in love with Ricky Schroder that I actually joined his fan club. Not only did I join the fan club, but of course I hung up the poster that he had signed, right above the bed (much to my older sister's chagrin, as we shared a room). There was also a postcard with his signature, and it was this very broody, pouty-lipped pose-I think that was honestly my very first experience with feeling some sort of sexual pull. Didn't quite know what it WAS, but I certainly felt something. Of course, in my naivete, I was sure the signature was REAL, and that I was the only fan for whom he actually put his pen to poster; the rest were all rubber stamps, I was convinced. As if all this weren't enough, I actually started a small chapter of the fan club in my little podunk I daho town, with me and three other girls comprising the entire membership. We would get together in the park and do those little paper things where you write down 7 people you want to marry (he was always #1 for me), 7 places where you want to live, etc... then do the spiral thing and count how many lines and then go through the entire paper crossing off every time you got to the total until at the end you were hopefully marrying Ricky Schroder and having 12 kids and living in a mansion (does ANYONE else know what I am talkin about here?), and then we would compose these wonderful letters to him...yep, those were the days.

And then there was the group Menudo; remember THEM? Oh, my. Yep, had a posted of them, too, and back in the day, Ricky Martin was one hot tamale. I used to SWEAT when I would watch them on TV, really. I can't even remember when or where I first heard them-certainly not on the radio, but on some Saturday morning show, maybe? I don't know, but they were the shit.

The hilarious thing about this NOW is that I did a little research while posting this, and I look at these old photos and really, can't even understand why I ever thought these people were hot. Ricky-a.k.a Rick (though I read he is going back to Ricky) reminds me of my oldest son, and Ricky Martin reminds me of a pimp. I guess there is no rhyme or reason to schoolgirl crushes. See, I have to write about stuff like this in my BLOG because I would be too embarrassed to tell anyone in real life that I used to get off on a posterof Ricky Schroder. My secret is safe here, right?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Religous Freedom or Murder?

I read this story when I got to work this morning about a family whose 11 year old daughter died of a treatable diabetic condition. Treatable. They didn't take her to the doctor, choosing instead to pray for her, and when she was pronounced dead, said that they guess they didn't have enough faith. On a lot of different levels, this really pisses me off. I am a Christian, and I have a very deep faith, but it would never in a million years occur to me to go to God instead of a doctor if one of my kids was seriously ill. And they HAVE been-both Eli and Sam have been in the hospital more than once due to their asthma, and had they been left in the hands of just me and The Big Guy, they would be dead. Period. I DO believe that God can heal, but I also believe that He made people smart enough to learn how to help ourselves heal for a REASON (I also believe that science and technology can be and are taken too far, but that is the subject of an entirely different post).

I believe in free will, and I believe that we each get to choose what God looks like to us, and I also believe that what you choose to believe isn't really any of my business. Hey, if it makes you happy, if you feel peace and contentment in your faith OR lack of it, if you are a basically good person who is doing your best, that's pretty much what matters-whether you are a believer in God or not. I also believe that as long as we don't hurt anyone with our belief or lack of, we can run around naked at midnight and worship trees if we want. The point is, we get to choose.

But in a case like this, these parents didn't just hurt their daughter, they killed her, and that is what upsets me so much. Their choice is to believe in a God that will heal, and there isn't anything wrong with that-but what about their daughter? Where is the choice for her? You can't tell me that this little girl wanted to DIE. I am sure that at 11, she held similar beliefs to those of her parents (and it sounds as if she was kept fairly isolated from society in general, so wouldn't have had a chance to explore other beliefs), but I highly doubt that were she given a choice she would have chosen to stay home and die.

There are three other children in the home, and one of the people involved in the investigation made the comment that they will remain in the home because there is no evidence of abuse; that blows me away. So the kids are cared for and probably loved well, the house is clean and they have enough money, therefore abuse is not taking place. Murder, sure, but not abuse. I don't GET this, I really don't. And this is where it gets really sticky, the whole religion thing. Because we live in a nation where we are allowed to believe whatever we want (and I don't argue with that, I really don't), if this family is ever charged with anything, they will get to pull the religious discrimination card and will probably get off with probation. IF charges are filed. And how is that fair or right or okay? It is one thing to make a choice for yourself based on your own beliefs and values-as an adult, I would totally fight to the death for the right to choose not to seek medical care, to have a say in what does or doesn't happen to my body. But aren't we as adults supposed to be looking out for our children's best interests? I fail to see how in this instance death was in her best interests, and now she will NEVER have the opportunity to make her own decisions about anything.

I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, I believe that He can and does perform miracles on a daily basis. However, I also think we are supposed to do our part-which is to avail ourselves of the amazing, wonderful world of science and medicine and nature, to allow those who are gifted with the ability to help heal to do their job. In my opinion, anything less is spitting in God's face and saying, no thanks. I think there are a lot of ailments that can be cured with natural remedies, we use essential oils for different things, and of course I pray for my kids when they are ill-but that doesn't take the place of medicine at times.

Part of me wants to be generous and loving toward this family-because no matter what their beliefs or how it happened, they lost a daughter, a sister, a friend. I am struggling with it, though, because they killed her and choose to believe it is God's will. I don't believe that our deaths are pre-ordained, I don't believe that God knows the exact hour and day of our death; I don't believe it is His will for things like this to happen. I believe His heart broke when this little girl died, I really do, and I fail to see how anyone can find a blessing in something like this happening-except that maybe she isn't going to have to grow up with such crazy fuckers, I don't know.

Things like this are why it is NEVER a good idea for me to get online and read the news first thing in the morning. It's going to fuck with my head all day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Flashback Friday-Bad Hair Month

Before you read any further, let me tell you a little bit about me. I might think liberally, have a loud mouth, be very opinionated and some would say stubborn, but when it comes to my appearance, I am very, very conservative. I have highlights in my hair, but only subtle ones to cover up the grey that is starting to appear. My clothing? At work, khakis and nice shirts, at home, jeans. Nothing flashy, I am about as far from trendy as you can get, and it works for me. I do not go out of my way to stand out from the crowd in any way.

So when I was a sophomore in high school, I let my older sister convince me to allow her to put some subtle highlights in my hair. Just to brighten it up a little, she said. Since she was by then in college and had always been something like a hero to me (she had a flat top haircut long before it was considered socially acceptable to have crazy hair), and hey, she was COOL, so it really wasn't difficult to be convinced. We excitedly went out and bought the highlighting kit, complete with the little cap and miniature crochet hook that is supposed to be used to pull small sections of hair to be highlighted. Off to the bathroom where we listened to Howard Jones and the Hooters (anyone else remember them?) and really got into it.

But the little miniature crochet hook was a piece of junk, and my sister started to get frustrated at the length of time it was taking; she was also getting rather annoyed at my yelps of pain as she oh-so-gently-pulled hairs out by the roots. So she thought to just take the cap off and try to separate the strands herself. Within a few minutes, she said, "This just isn't working; let's just do the whole thing, you will look SO great as a blond!" and proceeded to slather this highlighting stuff all over my head. 30 minutes later, it was time to wash it out...

...and the very minute she had the stuff all rinsed out, she started giggling. And laughing. And literally laying on the floor with tears running out of her eyes, bellowing with laughter. This did not bode well. I looked in the mirror and my hair was not blond at all, it was an odd hue of orange, much like the sun looks when there is a fire somewhere close by. I was devastated and amused at the same time, and I remember she and I trooping downstairs to show the parents, muffling giggles and wiping away tears at the same time. They were not as amused, I assure you.

And then I had to go to school, which was a daunting prospect given my unwillingness to be noticed in any way, shape or form. However, my sister gave me advice I still use to this day, though: As long as you portray the right attitude, no one will give you shit. So we shaved (yes, OK, this WAS the 80's) one side of my hair, went to the thrift store and picked up an old Army jacket and combat boots, and I went to school acting like I had meant to do it. I was already friends with the punk kids, because we were all incredibly smart but didn't fit in anywhere else but the Honor's Classes, so THEY thought I was just finally crossing all the way over. And I found out that hair does grow back or fade away, and as long as you come across as having done something rather shocking on purpose, people think you are brave. It's all in the attitude.

I pulled it off, even though I still cringe to this day when I remember how ridiculous I looked. And I never let my sister touch my hair again-seemed much safer all the way around.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Teenagers Scare the Living Shit Out of Me...(a song, but also the title of this rant!)

Right up front here, I will say that I very rarely get involved in any of the kids' problems with each other or their friends, beyond a few very basic rules. 1. Saying "I hate you" is absolutely NEVER okay, 2. If someone is bleeding, it is probably a good idea to stop what you are doing, and 3. Don't ever, I mean, EVER say, "But he/she/it started it!" Oh, I forgot 4. No actual weapons, because it really is true that a stick will poke your eye out, and 5. Please stop REALLY MEANS please stop (never too early to teach the boys that NO means NO). I have too many kids and too little time to be a referee and all of that, plus I really don't care much as long as they are not genuinely harming one another, plus I figure they need to learn how to deal.

That said, I am pretty sure I am going to have to hunt down this little bitch who is calling my daughter at all hours and shove her happy little cell phone up her perky teen aged ass. For the most part, Hannah can handle herself pretty well, and ALSO for the most part hasn't had to deal with anything more than the usual teenage drama. We all know that teen aged girls can be cruel and mean, and Hannah is not immune to it-on the giving end as well as the receiving in. Believe me, I am SO not one of those parents who think their kid can do no wrong. But this other girl, well. Of course it has to do with a boy, one whom Hannah used to date. This boy is persona non grata at our house ( we had a major issue at our house involving him last year, including me having to get the police to go get my daughter out of his house), so it seems a little ridiculous that 6 months after the fact, this other girl is getting all freaked out about it, but yeah, yeah, whatever. For a few days, I have been listening but not intervening ; Hannah is not allowed to go into her room to talk on the phone, so I get to keep an ear out for any potential issues that might need addressing, but for the most part I don't believe I need to intervene. So this girl has been calling and basically harassing Hannah, but up until last night I still thought it would blow over. And really, Hannah also has to learn to not feed the fire; she hasn't been retaliating verbally, but she also sets herself up for it by trying to be reasonable and explain herself and her feelings, which for the most part is a good thing but hey, you can't be reasonable with an unreasonable person, right? So I have been encouraging her to simply not engage; to step out of the ring, so to speak, and just let it go. Tell her that she isn't going to talk to her, then hang up the phone, or better yet, don't answer the phone. But no, Hannah is too much like her mama and wants to be right, so she keeps trying to make herself understood. That is also part of the reason I haven't gotten involved, too; I understand the way Hannah thinks and feels, but I can't teach her the value of walking away from conflict-she has to learn that one herself.

But yesterday evening, I came home from work to find that this girl had followed Hannah and Sam to the park and called her names, all the while hanging all over the boy with whom H. had problems last year. Hannah did the right thing by coming home, good for her! But the girl kept calling the house, blah blah blah, and H. was understandably a little shaken. Then, in a major switch, the girl was calling to tell Hannah how sorry she was for behaving badly; I was sitting on the couch, Hannah right next to me, and her side of the conversation was, "Oh, it's okay, I acted badly, too," so I could tell that the girl was apologizing, and Hannah was falling for it, totally. But then? " I am just kidding, you fucking slut! I can't believe you fell for that!" I heard it myself, this girl yelling it at my daughter, and there was more for a few seconds (like "you bitch, I hate you") until Hannah just hung up with her eyes full of tears, mouth hanging open with shock.

Mama Bear intervened. I called that little girl right back and started off reasonably enough: "Hi, this is Hannah's mom, and I really don't appreciate the phone call you just made to my daughter." She did the sweet, innocent act, saying that she was just calling to say hi, didn't know what I was talking about, etc...and I very, very gently told her that I had been sitting next to Hannah and heard most of the conversation, and that I did not want her calling my home again. You know what she said? " Shut up, bitch, I will call as much as I want to." and hung up.

Needless to say, on the agenda today is calling her parents and letting them know what their daughter is doing. I really don't think it will matter, as if they are letting her hang out with the boy she is hanging out with, they probably don't particularly care, but maybe they aren't aware. As a parent, I would hope that if my daughter were pulling the same type of shit, another parent would call me, but who knows? I am still in a bit of a state of shock, actually; I know how kids talk and act, but I am still stunned that a teenager would actually talk to an adult that way. Or somehow feel it is okay and cool to make harassing phone calls to another girl and say some of the things she said. It pissed me off, and I am still mad-because I don't even talk to my own daughter that way, what makes this little girl think she is going to get away with it?

In the greater scheme of things, I am sure this isn't the end of the world, but it scares me. It scares me that we as a nation are raising kids to think that this kind of behavior is not only acceptable, but normal. It scares me that 15 and 16 year old kids (and younger) are running around doing whatever they want, with no adult supervision or guidance. I know there is only so much I can control about what my kids do when I am not around; they are going to make poor choices and experiment with different substances, they are going to do all of the things that normal kids do. No child is immune to that, and I am as prepared as I can be to deal with those types of issues. What scares me are the parents who have raised their children to believe that they can do whatever it takes to get what they want, without thought or concern for long-term consequences or the damage it might do to someone else. It scares me how many parents simply don't care enough or are too involved in their own lives to stop and teach their own children. It scares me, too, that my children are growing up in a world where it is considered passe to be the kind of family we strive to be, where mom knows where the kids are and who their parents are and what they are doing, where we spend a lot of time together and talk to one another. What we have is imporant, and thankfully, wonderfully, we have a lot of friends who support our family and have similar ideas and beliefs about families. It scares me that more and more, parents are content, even happy, to let their kids run wild in order to avoid having to take a stand.

*****Update: I got ahold of the girl's mom over my lunch hour, and really, I understand now why the girl thinks it is okay to behave the way she did; I approached it very calmly and reasonably, saying, "While I am not absolving my daughter of any part may have she played in this, I wanted you to know what happened." When I told her that her daughter had called my daughter some really nasty names, she replied with, "Maybe your daughter should stop acting like a slut and maybe my daughter wouldn't call her one." Hm, nice. I also told her that perhaps she isn't aware of what this boy her daughter is involved with is like, and outlined the incident he involved my daughter in, and this mother went on to tell me that it really is none of my business who her daughter chooses to hang around with, which of course it isn't...all in all, I really felt like this woman DOESN'T care, as long as she doesn't have to take any action or deal with her own child's poor choices. While I am a huge proponent of allowing your children to make choices and deal with the consequences, I also believe it is my job to protect my children from situations they don't KNOW how to deal with, and it is both my right AND my responsibility as a parent to know where my daughter is, who she is with, and what they are like. I also reserve the right to cut off all contact, which I have now done. The final thing I said to the Evil Mom was, "So, if I am hearing you correctly, you don't care that your daughter is harassing my daughter, you are not going to address the fact that she told an adult to shut up, and hung up on me, and you also don't want to hear about potentially dangerous people she is involved with?" Evil Mom said, "Yeah, I think you heard me correctly," and hung up. My faith in the future of this nation fails daily.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


My favorite author in the world, Anne Lamott, once said something along the lines of it being an act of wisdom to put the spoon down if you know it's poison. When she wrote this, she was talking about relationships, and I was reminded of this over the last few days (I don't actually carry her book around with me, hence the paraphrasing) as I have been coming to grips with the final ending of my relationship. Well, final save for the fact that we have a son together, which means not final at all, just changed. It isn't any easier to lose a relationship at 35 (ish) than it is at 15, when it all seems so new and fresh and lovely. I am considerably more battered around and broken in now than I used to be, my heart is much harder than it perhaps should be, but there is nothing clear cut and simple about any of it. In many ways, in fact, I think it is harder to lose someone as we age, because we are so much aware of how little time we have left.

So. We have been apart since New Years Day. We have tried the staying friends thing, even going so far as to have this very adult, no-strings attached sex for awhile. The basic liking of each other hasn't changed, even now; I might not like some of the things he does (like drinking a large amount of alcohol when he was supposed to be taking care of the kids while I was out of town to be with my dad in the ICU, passing out on the couch and making my 15 year old daughter assume responsibility for the household. Hm. Maybe I still have some anger issues...), but really, I don't dislike him as a person. In fact, the opposite is true. Faults and addictions and all, I love him; maybe more than anyone I have loved in the past, which sounds trite and insignificant and, dare I say it, cliched, but is nonetheless true. But the past few weeks I have been realizing how bad this is for me. I am not against no-strings attached sex as a general rule, nor am I opposed to maintaining a friendship with an ex-partner. In fact, in time I would like that to be the case, because we DO share a child together, and I can see that it may be possible in the future. However, what was happening was that I was allowing him to have all of the benefits of being in a relationship without actually being in a relationship. Soon we had fallen into the same patterns as before-which were not bad or unhealthy ones in a general sense, but under the circumstances became so. A bunch of other small things happened, nothing major or traumatic, just things, but by and by I got to the point where I just thought, this can't continue on this way.

But he felt me pulling away, and I think it scared him a little bit; he grabbed on, for lack of a better term, and it understandably caused some hard feelings. At one point over the weekend, he yelled at me because I wasn't home when I said I was going to be home (my home, by the way, we have never lived together), and I kind of snapped and yelled back, "We are not dating anymore! I don't answer to you anymore." More bitter words, more hurt feelings and anger, and that is when I just knew that it was really over.

I have been through the bitterness and the anger of a divorce; in the beginning of the end with my ex-husband, not only was I put through it, but was also an active participant. I wanted to hurt him somehow as badly as he hurt me, I wanted to try to make him see and feel all of my absolute anger and rage. I wanted to exact retribution of some sort. Of course, it didn't work, because it didn't matter to him (and yes, I still have anger, but nothing near like it used to be, and it has more to do with his son than it ever did with me), and all it did was make me feel sick and ashamed inside. I learned how powerful rage is-it can make you find a job and fill your cupboard and take care of your kids and get through the nights. At the same time, I also found out first hand how harmful it is; every time I lost it with him, every time I screamed back or called him names or otherwise gave in to the fury, it hurt me, and it hurt my kids. Eventually I learned other, better ways to handle things, and things improved.

With Steve, over the course of the weekend, I started to feel the rage again; let's all be honest here, there is such a rush sometimes when the fury takes hold of you. Even better if they have given you reason to be legitimately, honestly, angry! But then I recalled the feelings engendered by my fights with the ex, how it deteriorated what little bit of civility we could maintain until there was nothing left but hatred, and decided that I don't want to go there again. I don't want what we DO have left to be ruined by anger and fighting and constant conflict. I mean, this was consuming me to the point of losing sleep at night about it. We have a son, a wonderful, beautiful toddler son, who deserves to have both parents in his life-even if that means I have to be the one responsible adult who can make that happen. But it was eating at me, and I have been been really working on processing this; the rage isn't just directed at Steve, but at every man who has hurt me or abandoned me, often both-beginning with sexual abuse at a young age, continuing on through abusive boyfriends and husbands, until I got sober and started to believe I deserved better. And the rage is also directed at myself for sanctioning such abuse; I did not want it, but I did allow it to happen (at least as an adult), and there is no excuse.

So I have decided that the best possible way for me to remain at peace with myself and the place where I am at now is simply to accept that my anger is real, and justifiable in many instances, but no less harmful for its validity. I am also coloring my childhood abuse with adult perceptions and experiences, which is not fair nor right for that little girl who had no control over what happened to her. And yes, this does relate to the current situation with Steve, because I really like how far I have come in my life; I like it enough that I am not willing to be seduced by the sweet feeling of rage, and the ensuing letdown and shame. The ultimate in self-love and self-care is recognizing when things are not healthy and taking steps to change it. I am allowed to love Steve and the many very good things about him, but I am not allowed to allow him to dictate how I feel about myself and my life. I am allowed to let him be in my life, but on my terms, not his, and I am allowed to let go of that which was harmful for me and move on. The best, most kind and loving thing I can do for myself is to avoid situations where I might be tempted to sink into the hurt and rage; to avoid conflict and stop the fighting, all I have to do is put down the gloves and step out of the ring.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Last Page

I just started reading this book called Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler; the basic premise of the book is this woman who, for reasons I haven't yet discovered (I literally just started reading this, on my lunch hour), decides to just walk away from her family while on vacation. Like, she just leaves, and keeps going until she finds a new town and life in which to live. I picked up this book at the used book store yesterday (I joined BooksFree, which is really neat BUT slow, slow, slow) and chose it for the basic story line.

I have been there; maybe even as recently as Friday, when I was outrageously flirted with by a handsome man in the grocery store; he made some comment about me coming to live with him (the details leading up the THAT comment are not nearly as titillating as they surely sound, believe me), and in an instant I could actually picture myself calling the kids' various father's-including Owen's dad-and saying something along the lines of, "Okay, it has been 15, 14, 8, and two years (respectively), it is your turn, I am leaving." In that instant, I could see the life ahead of me, rife with possibilities.

This is not what I thought my life was supposed to look like; this is not how I pictured it in any way, shape or form, and believe me, it is totally NOT in my nature to be where and who I am today. For one thing, it is not in my nature to be a parent, or at least not the kind of parent I am. It was never my intention (as it never is) to be raising four kids from three different fathers on my own. I mean, for God's sake, I know how that SOUNDS, and I am not like that at all. I thought I would have this big family, sure, but a family where the dad was still around and made enough money that I didn't have to work unless I wanted to. The other course I thought I would take was going to college to be a doctor; I was registered for college in the pre-med program, for heaven's sake. So yeah, I understand sometimes the appeal of just leaving, of walking away and starting over. I can sometimes see myself just getting in the car and taking all of my money and just leaving, driving until I find a place that feels like home, and staying.

I know it wouldn't be all it was cracked up to be, though; those things about my life and myself that don't look like what I thought they would, well, they are what makes my life. I know there are times when I think I could gladly leave my kids behind and be happy, but the reality is far different. Part of that which makes me long to escape is also the same part of me that knows I have to stay. Not for my kids, though of course they DO need me, but for me. So that I can continue to be the person I am NOT by nature, but the person I want to be; the person I CHOOSE to be. So much of my life is committed to doing things differently than my parents did, treating my children the way I wanted to be treated, loving them enough to listen and care and try to help, even if that means being tough and making the deal with their own consequences. I don't know what I am doing a good percentage of the time, because I certainly don't have a decent model to work form, but it seems to be working. And no matter how great the appeal, am I not committed to seeing it through, for teaching my kids the value of hard work and perseverance and faith? Not even faith in a religious sense, though I do believe in God, but in a much greater sense; that in the long run, we CAN make a difference, and that we just have to see it through.

I read the last page of the book before I left the house; of course, she ended back home with her husband and family. I don't yet know how it happened, and maybe I don't need to know. Maybe it doesn't matter what happened in between but that she found what she thought she was missing, and it was home all along. I think maybe of the two of us, I am the lucky one-because I don't have to leave in order to find out that my life and problems will follow, one way or another, and that where I am is where I am supposed to be.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flashback Friday-Thoughts of the Ex, or "How Stupid Can You BE?!"

I love the idea of Flashback Friday (for more great posts and info about this, see Cable Girl's post about it, and follow her links to get the info!) because if nothing else, it gives me something to write about. But as April once wrote, it is hard to come up with ideas that aren't depressing or traumatic in some way. At the same time, those are parts of who we are, so maybe it isn't such a bad thing.

So. Because of my upcoming speaking engagement, I have been doing a lot of reflecting about my past, trying to choose which things are so important as to NOT be left out. Of course because I am an egotistical person, it is quite hard to believe that everything isn't vital, but I have really been working on overcoming that and truly separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. One event, or string of events, has been coming up a lot lately, which all psychobabble aside, makes me realize that it is, in fact, important.

I was married to this guy, and after a very tumultuous few years of marriage, he started to disappear. Of course he had been emotionally absent from very nearly the beginning, but then he started to be physically absent as well. As in, he would disappear and I wouldn't know where he was at all. The last time it happened, he and I had argued and he threw Sam's stroller through the picture window and, literally, walked off into the night. I have a very clear memory of that August evening; he walked out of the house and I could clearly see him stroll across the yard nonchalantly, keys jingling (my keys, too, as I later discovered) and whistling. Then he stepped off of the curb into the street, and it was like something out of a movie; as soon as he stepped out of the light shed from the street lamp, he was immediately invisible, instantly gone from my life.

He was gone for something like 4 months, and then one night I got a call from an alcohol/drug treatment center to which he had admitted himself. I was being asked to come participate in this event called the "Family Program," which is basically where the families of the inhabitants participate in all of this education and then you get a chance to tell the family member all of the ways in which their addiction hurt you. That is a simple explanation, but suffices. I went with the full intention of telling him to fuck off, but for one reason or another, I got sucked into feeling what could only be describes as hope; hope that if he stayed clean, we would somehow magically be restored as a family, that my life could finally be what I had hoped it would be when I married him, that we could somehow find a way to make things work. After a short period of me being the supportive wife and going to meetings with him, I started to realize that I was also an alcoholic, and decided that just maybe I should start taking it seriously.

What happened is that it all started to make sense to me. I started to do the things suggested that would help keep me sober. My life started to change, I started to change. He didn't; he went back out time and time again, but even then I was stupid and naive enough to think that if he just did X, Y, and X, things would be different this time. He left, would get clean for a little while and come back, and I was always stupid enough to let him back in, hoping that this time it would be different.

Flash forward to a few years later (sorry, stole that line from Alanis Morrisette), and he left again. He came home after spending the weekend, as I later found out, his latest in a long string of women with whom he had been unfaithful; came home on Eli's birthday to tell us that he was moving out. A whole bunch of really crappy things happened after that, including me and the kids having to immediately find a place to live because we were being kicked out of the house (this was actually the second time that had happened; at one point in 1999, Sam and I had to live in a homeless shelter for a little while. Yes, I am stupid!). We moved to our current home and had undercover cops staked out at our house for two weeks, 24/7, because my husband's drug dealers were making threats against me and my kids in order to get money he woed them. We walked scared for a long time after that, and slowly put our shattered lives back together.

And then he came crawling back, telling me he was clean and going to meetings and just loved me so much he couldn't live without me and my kids. His current girlfriend had kicked him out, he was filthy and skinny from so many drugs, weak and shaking and pathetic, but this was really and truly the turning point in my relationship with him: I said NO. A lot more really ugly things happened after that, with restraining orders and threats of violence and, when I finally got the call from his PO that they had gotten him and he was spending a year in jail, well, that was the first time in a long time I was able to draw a breath. And you know, I kept breathing, through fear and pain and heartbreak and joy, and we put our lives together and somehow managed to not only exist, but to live.

I had hopes, maybe, to inject some humor into this, but it really isn't funny. It is sad, and hard to realize how stupid I used to be. The upside, though, is that making the choices I made have given me strength to live my life free of the kinds of fear that used to wake me up nights screaming. We are good now, happy, even, and though life is certainly not without it's problems, and I am still a colossal fuck-up on lots of occasions, I am also strong and beautiful and kind. This is important for me to remember when the screaming meemies get to me as they often do-it is vital that I remember where I came from so I can see not only the forward progress I have made, but also get a glimpse of where I might be going next.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Got Nothing

I have absolutely nothing of worth to offer the Blogger world today; my ratings over at the buzz are slipping, and I actually care, but it is like caring twice removed-because I just don't have the energy to REALLY care. I blame this lack of inspiration on several things-we have been dealing with illness in our home for going on two weeks now; today is the first day I have felt normal in quite some time. And I know what other mothers can find inspiration in shitty diapers and massive quantities of toddler puke which, frankly, never hit the goddamned bowl, but you know, I am just not one of them. Instead, between the baby and I both being sick, and now the older kids as well, I just haven't really felt like doing or thinking much beyond the next load of laundry.

But there is this, too: I have been asked to be a speaker at a meeting in a couple of weeks; this is for AA, and I have been sober for just over 8 years- this is the first time I have been asked to speak, and it really is quite the big deal. An honor to be asked, actually, I feel humbled, all of that. The thing is, I just don't DO public speaking; it isn't in my nature to stand up in front of a group and bare my soul. The closest I have ever come to this in my entire life was when I got voted "Class Clown" in my Senior Year of high school (though okay, it was a tie, and I spent the entire three seconds onstage wondering how funny it would be if I knocked that obnoxious bitch off the podium); there was a crowd of people, a podium, but hey, I didn't actually have to speak. So I guess it really was nothing like this, actually. Still, I said yes, because I felt like I should-not as in I felt obligated, but in a much deeper sense, I feel like I should, that it will be good for me, challenging, all of that. If nothing else, I will confront this fear, right?

In a nutshell, though, and to paraphrase my favorite author Anne Lamott, I have this strange combination of characteristics called a huge ego and low self-esteem-meaning, of course, that "I am the piece of shit around which the world revolves." I have been envisioning two very different scenarios: 1: the room will so full of people who are totally amazed by my words of wisdom that they stand up and cheer and invite me to speak at the next International Convention. Never mind the audition tapes, the process of starting out small, they want me there. I am that good. 2: Nobody will show up. I am so insane and obsessive that I am actually campaigning to have people I know and kind of like to come to this meeting just so I know there will be at least ten people there. I am promising all sorts of things that hey, we all know I can't deliver or will conveniently forget , all because I don't want to get up there and look like an ass.

Forgive me if this is taking up too much mental space for me to blog intelligently, because hey, I am on the road to greatness, right? Excuse me, then, while I practice my Beauty Queen Wave; you KNOW I am going to need it soon.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Clarification of Sorts Re: Father's Rights

In reading a couple of my comments and talking to people in my real life about this issue, I feel like I should clarify a few things. Yes, I know that not all father's are deadbeats; I know one really awesome single father who got custody of both of his kids, the house, and most of the couple's possessions because his wife was caught cheating on him with a high school student. He was also paid child support and alimony for a period of years, and was a great dad. I also know one other single dad whose situation was similar-though I cannot comment on his parenting as I know him only through my job, I do know that he won, so to speak.

But men like this are few and far between, which both statistics and my personal experience bear witness to. Of every single parent I know, which are too many to count, all but those two I mentioned above are women. And every one of those women I know have ex-partners who, after the divorce or breakup, conveniently forgot that they had children or any kind of responsibility to them. Every single mother that I know has to deal with the constant struggle for money due to the fact that they are raising one or more children with no help from their ex. Every one of them has had to deal with the emotional trauma done to children whose fathers who have either abandoned them or are only there for the fun things-Disneyland Dads are better than nothing, but they are not what children need and want in their lives. In addition, each one of us has to deal with the deadbeat dad laws that are really quite similar to restraining orders-not worth the paper they are written on. It's a Catch-22; sure, we can take our exes to court to get a judgement against them for non-payment of child support- a judgement against them which we know they aren't going to pay. Often, we cannot even do that because we don't know where they are, and in addition, where are we going to get the money to hire an attorney?

Discrimination is alive and well in this nation, which we all know. But here we are not talking about race or religion or sexual orientation, we are talking about discrimination against both our gender and our ability to be a parent to our children. When we hear something about single fathers, we automatically think, "Oh, the poor guy, what a great job he is doing raising his kids on his own," yet we single mothers have to hear things like, "Oh, you're a single parent. That explains a lot about why your son got into a fight today." We single moms have been blamed for much of the downfall of the economy because statistically speaking, we are the ones on welfare, we are the drain on society, we single and unwed mothers are raising kids who end up in prison because we can't do a good enough job. It doesn't seem like many people stop to think about why that is. Surely it can't be because we don't get hired for the jobs for which we are qualified because of our status as single moms; surely it has nothing to do with the fact that we make 40% of what men with equal education and experience do, or 60% what married-with or without children-women do with the same qualifications. So not only is our worth as parents questioned daily on a personal level, but our ability to perform work for which we have trained or gone to school is also questioned. Whether this is right or not is a moot point-this is the reality of the world in which we live, period.

I had a friend who died almost three years ago, leaving behind a husband and four kids. Regardless of the fact that he is a widow instead of a divorced man, he is a single parent. However, not only has he kept his job, but he has never experienced the problems that most single moms have to deal with. Instead of having the people he was close to abandoning him when things got tough, they brought dinner every night for at least a year for he and his children. He was able to hire a nanny until the twins were old enough to go to an all day pre-school/daycare. He still has people to this day who will drop everything and come running to his aid if ever he should need them. So tell me this: why is divorce any different? Why is it that we women are suddenly left with absolutely no resources, no support network, no sympathy, and no recourse? Believe me, I would far rather experience death than divorce; at least with a death, people surround you with love and support instead of closing the door and standing 50 feet back because it might be catching. They bring casseroles and loving arms to hold you when you cry; they offer to take your kids when they are sick because they know you can't lose your job. Also, with death, at least the kids have closure of a sort. Is it less damaging to have a child grow up knowing that mommy or daddy HAD to leave rather than have them wonder, every single day of their lives, where their other parent is, why they chose to leave, and what they did to make them not love them anymore? Please don't get me wrong when I say this-I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for this man raising his children without their mother, and as one of her closest friends, I am so grateful that he has the love and support he needs to make it through. I just wish that we women who have been left so totally to our own devices had a similar amount of support and caring-not just from people, but from our nation as a whole. I wish that people looked at me and saw all of the amazing things I do on a daily basis; I wish that the choices I make-every one of them based on what is in the best interests of my children-would be seen as wise and loving. I would love, just once in my life, have a teacher say, "You are doing such a great job; what can I do to HELP you," instead of assuming that a failing grade is somehow my fault.

I am not opposed in a moral or ethical sense to the idea that fathers have rights; I know there are some instances where the mother truly is a piece of shit and doesn't do the things the court has ordered her to do. But the fact that Mr. David Stone has his own law firm and obviously makes a very decent living at defending these so-called injured men almost makes me laugh-because all it does is prove that I am right; we moms don't have the option of hiring a fancy-schmancy attorney to fight for our rights, we don't have the ability to stand up and say, "This is not right," because we simply don't have the time, the resources, or frankly, the energy to do so. We are too busy raising our kids alone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Father's Rights, My Ass!

Despite the title of this blog, I haven't really "ranted" often lately; however, that has all changed today, thanks to my friend April. She sent me a link to a law firm in California founded by this dude called David Stone and oh-so-innocently suggested I look at it and maybe write a letter. She knows me well; I happily followed the little link because she has, in the past, sent me other links to law firms like this one and I have gotten a kick out of them. I did NOT, however, get a kick out of this one, at all. Instead, it really just pissed me off, and I have composed a small, friendly letter to this man to let him know just what I think about his law firm.

Dear Mr. Stone:

You are an asshole.



-And that is as far as I could get. Quoting from his website directly, he says "Father's rights is a passionate subject that in reality has no answer." Number one, that sentence doesn't make a bit of sense; where did this guy go to school (I know it says, but really, I don't give a shit. He is an idiot regardless.)? Number two, he really has no fucking clue. Let's talk about Father's rights, Mr. Stone.

In this country, fathers have the right to do this: to decide one day that they don't want to be married or be fathers anymore, and then walk away. They have the right to forget they have a responsibility to the child(ren) they helped create, both in an emotional and financial respect, and also have the right to go on to live unfettered lives. They also have the right to choose to not pay their child support, work under the table, decline to file taxes, refuse to pay for insurance or their portion of child care and medical costs that are not covered by insurance.

I believe it incredibly important for men to remain in their children's lives regardless of whether or not the marriage or partnership lasts, but let me give you a little insight: most men DON'T. I know some really awesome kids-including my own-whose fathers have chosen to sever all ties and then bitch and moan to people like you because they don't have any rights. What about the rights of those kids? Are you going to physically drive to the absent father's home, hog-tie him, and force him to go visit that child he abandoned? Because don't kids have the right to see their father, to be financially and emotionally supported by both parents, regardless of marital status?

When we women get the same rights you are wanting for men, I will support that, but until then, no dice. Statistically speaking, women who go through a divorce with OR without children are almost immediately thrown into poverty; I have NEVER heard a case where that has happened to a father. Statistically speaking, we single moms make something like 40 cents to the Almighty Man's dollar, and we very often have to support the children left behind with no help from the sperm donors. We are also much less likely to get and keep a "decent" job, regardless of education, because when we have young children, we have to be absent from work more often. Hm, sick kids means no daycare or school and, therefore, no work for mom. Men all over the country have fathered children without care or regard, and once the marriage ended, in your mind the obligations did as well. What is left but a single mom trying her best to put back together the shattered lives of her and her children?

Let me tell you this: when men are carrying their share of the burden-financially, emotionally, and physically, then you can talk to me about their rights. When they are taking time off of work to take care of a sick baby, when they are willingly paying their child support and setting aside money every month for their kids to go to college, when they are buying shoes and diapers and helping pay for braces, I will support their rights. When they talk to their teen aged sons about the porn mags mom found under their mattress, when they are escorting teen aged daughters to the doctor to talk about birth control, when they are telling the baby how big he is for sitting on the potty, when they are attending Scout Banquets, I will listen. When Mom is so sick she is throwing up blood and dad says, "Let me take the kids so you can rest," or offers to stay overnight with them so mom can go pretend for a night that she is someone besides a mom, or when he acknowledges, publicly and loudly, that his kids are so fucking lucky to have a mom who gives a shit, I will FIGHT for those same rights.

Until then, Mr. Stone, you and your fathers who claim to have no rights can go grease each other up, bend over, and take it right up the ass. After all, that is what we women have to go through every single day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Quirky, Shmirky

I am shamelessly using April's blog to get ideas; my consolation today is that if she tagged people-which she doesn't-she would have tagged me. There you go. So I am supposed to list these 6 quirky things about me, but then I got to thinking that really, I am not at all quirky. I am THE most normal person I know, really. Which, okay, doesn't say a lot for the friends I have, but since this is about ME, we won't go there.

1. I have to write with black ink. I prefer roller ball pens (one brand in particular, but I will use others in a pinch), but use black ballpoint at work-but they have to have a thin barrel. This is not as odd as it sounds; one of my sisters can only write with blue ink, and she has to have a certain number of pens in her purse at all times-an odd number.

2. I have such an intense hatred of meatloaf that it makes me gag, literally, to even cook onions and hamburger together because it smells like, you got it, meatloaf. I also cannot eat meatballs, in a restaurant or otherwise, for the same reason. The reasons for this are too intense for this particular post, but along the same lines and for similar reasons, I cannot eat egg salad. I love deviled eggs, though, so that one doesn't make any sense.

3. Continuing in the same vein, I love bread; not like a loaf of bread that you can buy at the grocery store, but bread. There is a Cheese Factory here that sells bread (which doesn't make any sense to me, but they also sell meat-odd) that they make fresh there two or three days a week, and I can literally eat half a loaf; Asiago cheese bread (hm, there is the connection. I don't know what the meat connection is; because bread is made from grain, which cows eat? Cows which supply the milk?).

4. I have a deep seated fear of getting/being lost. The funny part of that one is that I have never actually BEEN lost, so I am not sure why it is such an issue.

5. I am slightly OCD; I have to check my alarm clock four or five times before I go to bed to make sure I have it set for the right time and that it is acutally turned on. I often leave the coffeepot on, and God knows I DON'T iron, so I guess I have to obsess about something.

6. I love to drive. Not like in traffic (because I also have just the slightest bit of road rage) but on trips; love to cruise down the road with the radio playing, looking at everything going on around me. I would much rather drive than take a plane somewhere, even though I also love to fly.

Hm. None of those sounds very quirky to me; I am sure there are a lot of other things about me that are much more odd, but really, I just can't think of any right now!